There’s always that one band that I love that I always seem to miss whenever they come around. For example, before this year, the only time I ever saw St. Vincent was in Tennessee, five years ago. My attempts to see Wilco over the year have been a series strange stories. I’ve always managed to show up late, or miss their shows, because of canceled trains, traffic, inconceivable amounts of rain, or a drawbridge. For years I had missed out on one of the best live bands out there. So when Wilco announced their three night run at one of my favorite venues, The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, NY, which is about an hour away in traffic, I knew I had to hit up these shows, and nothing was going to stop me. I had caught My Morning Jacket’s three night run there, and those were three of my all-time favorite shows.
On Tuesday, I rolled into Port Chester around four, and met up with some friends in line. I grabbed dinner at the Mexican place, El Tio, right next to the Capitol Theatre, my home for the next three nights. We’re let in, given wristbands, avoid being trampled by other Wilco fans, and after what feels like forever, Wilco take the stage and begin the first of these three shows. Opening with “Wilco (The Song)” off of Wilco (The Album) was a fitting opener, but the band dove into their deep catalog early and often. The first night was a treat for fans, playing some live staples like an incredible version of “Hummingbird” that Tweedy said “you’ll never hear it like that again” as well as some deep cuts like “Promising”. Oh, and a little shoutout to Long Island in “Kingpin” where the band was really feelin’ it. It was a great night that was capped off by a three song semi-acoustic set that only got me more excited for the next two nights than I already was.
For Wednesday, there was a fight in line before the show, a botched opening of the doors which found me second row right in front of Jeff Tweedy, which isn’t really a bad place to be at all. The second night was a rocker of a set, with the band firing on all cylinders. A lot of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot on this night, “Ashes of American Flags”, “Pot Kettle Black”, “Jesus Etc”, “Radio Cure”, “I’m The Man Who Loves You” and “Heavy Metal Drummer” all made the set, along with some really great gems like bassist John Stirratt taking center stage for “It’s Just That Simple”. Another unbelievable night of music that closed out with everyone in the Cap singing along to “California Stars”. At one point, Tweedy started talking, but immediately regretted it saying “we were doing so good, until I started talking…”. I don’t think the audience at the cap minded, except for those with lighters or matches, or even worse, those silly lighter apps.
The third night I made it my goal to be right up in front of Nels Cline to see one of our guitar gods do his thing. If you ever find yourself at a Wilco show, I can’t think of a more incredible spot to be. Cline puts his heart and soul into his guitar playing, moving with every note, it’s hard not to be impressed. The set as a whole was fantastic, “Bull Black Nova” is an underrated track that gets some live love, “Via Chicago” is always something incredible to experience in person. The point where my mind was completely blown was probably about halfway through “Impossible Germany”. I could not have picked a better night to be in front of Nels Cline. The man was on fire, and even Tweedy felt it. After a round of applause that seemed to go on for minutes, the crowd died down a little bit, for Tweedy to motion at him again, and that resulted in an even louder round of applause, which was cut short by tweedy playing acoustic as quietly as he could, and the place went silent. They had the Cap in the palm of their hands. For the encore, they did another acoustic set, starting with an acoustic performance of “Misunderstood” that was great, and had the packed theatre singing along, especially during the ending “NOTHING!”s. Had Tweedy not intervened, I think we’d probably still be there right now. The three nights ended with Wilco asking the crowd to sing The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple”, and it was incredible hearing the sold out Capitol Theatre sing while the band just played the music.
These three nights were incredible, Wilco are a band that’s finally gotten the recognition they’ve deserved for a very long time. It’s great that twenty years of hard work has paid off. The current lineup of Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche, Mikael Jorgensen, Nels Cline, and Pat Sansone put on a great show. Kotche and Cline may be arguably the best at their respective instruments right now, and are a joy to watch. And the Capitol Theatre may be the finest venue in the US when it comes to sound and sightlines, we’re incredibly lucky to have it. Wilco wrap up their 20th anniversary tour with six nights at The Riviera Theatre in Chicago, which are not to be missed.
You can listen to these shows via NYCTaper. The recordings below are from them. Give them a visit, they do amazing work.
Above photos by Rich Moses
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